Airbnb, a leading home rental online platform, recently announced it would block bookings in Britain for a vast majority of its customers, allowing only key workers to stay in the rental properties till emergency government restrictions regarding COVID-19 are in place.
The move comes after hosts on the online platform were criticized for advertising their stays as "isolation retreats" and when Nigel Huddleston, the Tourism minister said in a statement that property owners were being extremely irresponsible of late.
Last week, Airbnb disabled the instant booking function for whole properties, barred rentals for private rooms in shared houses, while offering refunds to guests for rooms they no longer wish to take up. However, the latest move drastically tightens who can book stays on the platform.
Patrick Robinson, Director of Public Policy at Airbnb was stated that restricting bookings on the Airbnb platform to key workers and other essential stays only will enable hosts to support frontline workers while following guidelines from the government.
On 23rd of March, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson mandated citizens to stay at home in order to slow down the spread of coronavirus. As part of the restrictions, the regional government also ordered hotels and other online providers of rental accommodation to take a step down for a while or only provide services to workers at the forefront or other vulnerable groups.
While listings will still appear on the Airbnb platform, bookings will be blocked until at least 18 April, unless it is for an essential stay. The government reportedly said that it will take a view of the lockdown measures in the coming week. If the government extends the restrictions, Airbnb's policy will also be reviewed.
Last month, the home rental platform launched a program to let hosts offer free rooms for health workers, and the firm is planning to continue the service. However, it will need eligible staff to separately register on the Airbnb site through their employers.